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Kaukauna Ghosts advance to WIAA Division 1 state softball title game

May 03, 2023

MADISON − Some extra work in the batting cages paid off in a big way for Kaukauna on Friday at the WIAA state softball tournament.

The Ghosts pounded out 15 hits and had a big second inning in their 9-4 victory over Oak Creek in a Division 1 semifinal at Goodman Diamond. Kaukauna (29-0) will face Superior (27-0) in the championship game Saturday at 6:30 p.m. The Ghosts are attempting to win their third consecutive state title and have won 80 consecutive games.

Kaukauna struggled to get clutch hits in its 6-0 victory over Waterford in Thursday's quarterfinal, but was able to get big hits on three occasions Friday and scored seven of its nine runs with two outs.

A three-run triple from sophomore Summer Schmidt in the second inning and a two-run home run from senior Ava Bloch in the sixth led the offensive outburst by the Ghosts.

"It felt amazing," Bloch said. "I have been struggling hitting lately and then it finally felt nice to let one rip."

Ghosts coach Tim Roehrig said the team put in some extra work in the batting cages to prepare for Friday's game with he and assistant coach Steve Meredith pitching batting practice.

"We were at the batting cage today and worked on a few things and Ava looked at me and I said 'just do it' and she did it and rocked it out of the park," he said. "She worked hard at that today (at the cages). I was dripping wet when I was done and I knew (Steve Meredith) was dripping wet when he was done. So there was a lot of pitches thrown to her today for that ball to go out of the park. But she worked hard at it and executed today. It was awesome."

With the score 1-1, Kaukauna erupted for six runs in the second with a two-run single from Taryn Christopher and Schmidt's three-run triple the catalysts.

"'Summertime' came up big," Roehrig said. "Summer had a really great last few weeks, struggled a little yesterday but came with a big one today."

Oak Creek clawed its way back in the fifth, with Brianna Rickert's two-run single pulling the Knights to within 7-4.

The Ghosts put the game out of reach off the bat of senior catcher Ava Bloch, who belted a laser beam of a shot just over the 218-foot sign in left field for a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth.

"I was getting down on myself and knew I just had to do something," Bloch said. "I didn't care where it went, I just knew that I needed something out there. And then when it went over, I just felt a sense of relief."

Karly Meredith got the win, striking out seven over seven innings and walking five. Christopher and senior Reaghan Millard each finished with three hits with Kally Meredith, Paige Miller and Karly Meredith getting two hits apiece.

The Ghosts committed three errors in the first inning that led to an unearned run for Oak Creek and Roehrig said those early struggles ignited the Ghosts.

"This is a gritty group," he said. "They're not laying down. Someone is going to come after them, they're going to go right back at it. (Oak Creek) scored a run and our girls didn't blink an eye and they were right back at it. I think they thrive on the challenge like, 'Hey, if you think you can beat us today, then let's go at it and let's throw down and go,' and I think that's what it was."

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Superior beat Sun Prairie East 6-3 in the other Division 1 semifinal and has two of the top players in the state in catcher Emma Raye and pitcher Haley Zembo. The championship will be a rematch of last year's state semifinal, in which the Ghosts blanked Superior 10-0 in five innings with Karly Meredith getting the win in the circle.

Roehrig said the seniors have made sure the rest of the team knows what's at stake Saturday.

"We were walking out of there our seniors were already telling them we’re not done, we’re not done and they’re already locked in for (Saturday)," Roehrig said. "They want to go home and go to bed, get up and have breakfast. They want to go back to work. I know those kids, they’re competitors. They want to go and compete again. It's like a thoroughbred horse. When it gets on the track it wants to run. Those (girls) want to run right now."

Oak Creek 100 030 0 4 5 2

Kaukauna 160 002 x 9 15 3

WP: Karly Meredith (7IP, 7 K, 5 BB). LP: Riley Grudzielanek (6 IP, 8 ER, 3 K). Leading hitters: Madisen Noll OC 2 runs; Brianna Rickert OC 2 RBI; Emma Schmidt OC 2x3, 2B; Kally Meredith K 2x5; Paige Miller K 2x4; Karly Meredith K 2x2, 2B; Taryn Christopher K 3x4, 3 RBI; Summer Schmidt K 3B, 3 RBI; Ava Bloch K HR, 2 RBI; Reaghan Millard K 3x4, 3B.

RELATED: RELATED: Oak Creek 100 030 0 4 5 2 Kaukauna 160 002 x 9 15 3